Excel show fights back

National Boat Shows (NBS) and creative consultant Tim Pyne's redesign of the Collins Stewart London Boat Show has reversed its decline in attendances, throwing a lifeline to the future of the Excel London event in the face of plans for a rival west London event.

The 10-day exhibition attracted around 130,000 visitors from 5-14 January.

A redesign of the show floor meant the scrapping of its windsurfing championships, resulting in the loss of about 8,000 dedicated spectators. Last year's show saw attendances plummet to 138,000, more than 70,000 short of its first Excel outing in 2004 and 5,000 shy of its final year at Earls Court in 2003.

NBS marketing director James Gower said stemming the decline in visitors was an excellent springboard for next year. "We made significant changes and that'll be communicated to friends and family of those that attended and enjoyed the show. Next year we anticipate a rise in the number of visitors."

Creative consultant Pyne divided the show into sailing and motorboat exhibits. Debut features included John Goode's Anchor Watch masterclass and a 'fog tunnel' to teach the use of radar equipment. Each saw around 4,000 visitors a day.

The new features could be located via seagull graphics that hung from the ceiling and traditional exhibition carpet was replaced with sand-coloured flooring. "This show was looking at closure, but due to drastic action taken to make it more interactive, the exhibitors are now delighted," said Pyne. "It is now about boats and people who love sailing as opposed to a showroom where you'd only visit if you wanted to buy a boat."

Among exhibitors, Sunseeker reported show sales of £60m and the UK distributor of motor and sailing yachts Peters Opal declared sales in excess of 70 boats ranging from £100,000 to £5m.

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